In the midst of the holiday season with decreasing daylight hours and temperatures so cold in Minnesota you only want to stay inside and eat hotdish, it’s difficult to get motivated to eat right an exercise. Yet, with the rate of Type 2 diabetes among seniors over 60 continuing to grow, it’s imperative that seniors and their caregivers stay informed and vigilant in fighting the disease. Given that one-quarter of seniors over age 65 have been diagnosed with diabetes, it’s likely you’ll find yourself helping a senior and their home care team manage a disease that brings along a host of potential complications whether or not they’re living in a senior care facility or living independently in their Minnesota home.
3 Ways to Help Seniors Avoid Diabetes Complications
Type 2 diabetes rarely exists alone. It brings with it hypertension (high blood pressure), neuropathy (loss of feeling in the limbs) and vision trouble. Here are three ways you can assist seniors with diabetes.
1. Encourage adherence to the treatment plan As you probably know, when a senior receives a diagnosis of diabetes, their health care team will usually create a treatment plan that includes components like medication, diet, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. According to the Mayo Clinic, adhering to the treatment plan can delay or minimize complications that may arise from diabetes. Offer seniors encouragement and positive reinforcement about sticking to the care plan.
2. Advocate good medication practices Seniors with Type 2 diabetes may take medication not only for blood sugar control but also for coexisting conditions like hypertension or high cholesterol. Managing a lot of medications can become confusing, especially for people with memory loss or other cognitive decline. For seniors who need help monitoring their medication regimen, consider suggesting a non-medical helper or use this medication tracker. These home care aides can provide medication reminders to help seniors stay on track with the many pills they may need to take each day. This in-home assistance can be particularly useful if you’re unable to visit your senior loved one every day.
3. Encourage regular medical follow-up Some diabetes complications come on so slowly a senior may not realize anything is wrong until it’s almost too late to fix the problem. Encourage seniors to schedule regular follow-up care from eye professionals and primary care providers. These routine visits can identify ‘silent’ complications like diabetic retinopathy (decreased vision), high blood pressure and heart disease in order to secure prompt treatment. If transportation to appointments is an issue, our home care team can help.
People with diabetes have the same nutritional needs as everyone else. Eating well balanced meals is the main goal. While a healthy diet and exercise alone can help some with type-2 manage their diabetes, there are many who need medications to help keep blood glucose levels down. Insulin is required for people with type-1, and sometimes necessary for people with type-2 diabetes. With the help of your healthcare team, you can find an insulin routine that will keep your blood glucose levels under control. The good news is: with a proper management plan, you can control your diabetes and feel good.
Watch a Short Video
Even with proper healthcare, home care assistance and involved family care providers, it can still be helpful to access experts who can help you with specific issues. Dr. Amy D’Aprix, MSW, PhD, CSA, is the Executive Director of the DAI Foundation on Caregiving and hosts an “Ask Dr. Amy” program for Home Instead Senior Care. Recently, she was asked, “My husband is a very severe diabetic. He takes insulin four times daily. He suffers from severe depression and has chronic pain throughout his body. He sleeps a lot. What can I do to help him?”
Dr. Amy’s Response: You and your husband are facing a challenging situation. In terms of his physical condition, I encourage you both to speak with your husband’s doctor. Pain and depression can usually be managed with the right combination of medication, therapy, diet and exercise. Ask the doctor about all four of these. It’s important to get the pain under control, because people who suffer from chronic pain tend to manage their diabetes less well than others. Your doctor may need to refer your husband to a pain specialist. Once the depression and pain are being well managed, you can help your husband stay on track in terms of diet and exercise. You can also help by making time to enjoy the activities you used to enjoy as a couple before your husband became ill, as much as possible. Lastly, you can help your husband by taking good care of yourself. If you are rested and healthy, you will be better able to care for him.
Controlling Weight Key to Avoiding Diabetes
Researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, examined the relationship between Body Mass Index (BMI) at 50 years of age, weight, fat mass, waist circumference, waist-hip ratio, and waist-height ratio and discovered that all factors were strongly related to the risk of diabetes. Participants who were obese (BMI 30 or greater) at 50 years of age and who experienced the most weight gain (more than 20 pounds) between the age of 50 years and entry into the study had five times the risk of developing diabetes compared with weight-stable participants with normal BMI (less than 25) at 50 years of age. Ask your doctor to recommend a good diet and exercise program. If you’re having trouble managing mealtimes, why not consider joining friends for lunch at a senior center or local coffee shop. Shopping, meal preparation and mealtime companionship are among the most requested services provided by local Home Instead Senior Care® CAREGivers, who are screened, trained, bonded and insured.
10 Diabetes Superfoods Seniors Can Say “Yes!” To
Seniors who receive a diagnosis of diabetes may feel they have to give up all the foods they love. That’s not entirely true. Sure, they may have to say no to ice cream and white bread, but you can help the senior you care for adapt by offering new choices that will satisfy his or her desire for sweets and starches while keeping blood sugar levels stable.
1. Berries Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries — they all offer a sweet touch to any meal without elevating blood sugar levels too much.
2. Skim milk and fat-free yogurt Choose milk fortified with Vitamin D, which can help seniors maintain bone health. When it comes to yogurt, look for sugar-free varieties.
3. Citrus fruits Avoid fruit juices (which almost all contain added sugar) and go for the whole fruit. Oranges, lemons and limes can be eaten whole or used to add zest to other dishes. The exception? Grapefruit. Most seniors should avoid this citrus fruit because it contains compounds that may interact with medications.
4. Sweet potatoes Sweet potatoes satisfy that craving for a starch with the meal but don’t cause post-meal blood sugar spikes the way white and red potatoes do.
5. Whole grains Whole grain breads, oatmeal, brown rice and barley allow your senior to enjoy bread with meals.
6. Tomatoes Tomatoes are loaded with Vitamins C and E, along with iron. Eat them raw or cooked. (Read the labels of canned tomatoes and spaghetti sauces, which can contain undesirable levels of added sugar and salt.)
7. Dark Green Leafy Vegetables These nutrient powerhouses include spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens and many others. Seniors who take a ‘blood-thinning’ medication like warfarin (Coumadin) should avoid dark green leafy vegetables, but all others can consume these with abandon.
8. Beans Packed with fiber, beans of all types — navy, kidney, pinto — provide protein along with the essential minerals magnesium and potassium.
9. Fatty fish Choose fresh or frozen fish like salmon once a week or more to garner the healthful effects of its Omega-3 fatty acids.
10. Nuts Almonds, walnuts, pecans and other tree nuts provide nutrients and protein, which helps keep blood sugar levels stable. Go for unsalted varieties.
Changing one’s eating pattern can be very difficult, especially for elderly loved ones. Instead of telling them what they can’t eat, help your senior with diabetes overcome dietary challenges by suggesting foods they can say ‘yes’ to every day.